Things aren't going exactly as planned for high-powered, Manhattan
lawyer Louise (Meg Ryan). Her husband of 13 years, Ian (Timothy
Hutton), announces to her that he's leaving her for a younger
woman (Kristen Bell). Taking things into her own hands, Louise
holds Ian captive until he agrees to work on their marriage.
The unexpected arrival of a gardener turned opportunistic thief
(Justin Long) and Ian's impatient mistress serve only to complicate
the spiraling situation further.
Based on a screenplay by the late Adrienne Shelly (who was tragically murdered in her Manhattan office in 2006), this screwball comedy is the story of a high-powered attorney Louise (Meg Ryan) who, after catching her husband Ian (Timothy Hutton) cheating, holds him hostage by taping him to a chair- and later to a toilet. She wants him to love her again and isn’t willing to let him go until he rediscovers the love they had. Is there really humour in such a premise?
Cheryl Hines obviously thought so- for the actress of HBO’s "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and Shelly’s earlier Sundance hit "Waitress" was convinced by Shelly’s husband after her passing to make this movie. Meg Ryan too must have thought so- for the once-queen of romantic comedies who has seen her career gone 'kaput' in recent years has quite clearly put in one of her best performances of late.
Pity then that it’s unlikely their audience will think the same way. The film is pure tedium, and were it not for the earnest intentions of the people involved, would have been nothing more than an utter misfire. For the first half of the movie, we watch as Louise and Ian bicker and bicker and bicker some more. They take a pause if only to reminisce about the night of their wedding or some of the memories from their past photos, and then proceed to argue and argue again and again.
Does it get anywhere? No- and it doesn’t take a marriage counsellor to tell them as much, anyone in the audience could very well have done so. And just as you thought you would have to put up with their yakking for the whole movie, in comes Justin Long’s burglar to break the monotony and tie Louise up as well. Oh and did I mention that somehow Ian’s mistress (Kristen Bell) stumbles in on this fracas as well?
Even at a relatively brief 85 minutes, the movie moves at a plodding, utterly dreary pace without once managing to convince you that it is worth your time. Never mind that the screenplay was more befitting of a theatrical production- given its static use of locations- Shelly’s dialogue here possess none of the witticisms that made "Waitress" such a delight. Besides the occasional one-liner, the rest of the monologues just seem to go on without purpose or direction.
That is probably how Hines felt as the director of this picture, for she seems to have simply stood by while her cast went on with their ceaseless squabbling. (And all the while, the one thing you’ll be thinking is- can’t anyone spare a bit of duct tape to shut them all up?) Yes, it’s really that annoying. Would Shelly have wanted this film to be made? Looking at how dismal it is, I seriously doubt it.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
Commentary with director Cheryl Hines, producer Andy Ostroy and Michal Roiff - Hines speaks like Shelly’s fan; Ostroy was Shelly’s husband and Roiff often lets the other two take the lead. It’s hard to accept all their talk about how they wanted this to be a tribute to Shelly when what you’ve seen is an utter embarrassment of a movie.
The Making of Serious Moonlight - Basically a collection of cast and crew interviews, again heavily influenced by the fact that this film was Shelly’s posthumous work.
HDNet: A Look at Serious Moonlight- Were Cheryl Hines a better director, one would be more inclined to listen to her anecdotes here about directing this movie.
There is little to suggest that you’re listening to the Dolby Digital 5.1 version of the soundtrack of this very very talky picture. Just stick to the Dolby Digital 2.0- you won’t be missing anything. Visuals are clear and sharp and colours are well-balanced.
by Gabriel Chong
on 13 June 2010